So perhaps you don’t want to deal with the huge business plan in my last post. This can serve as an outline for your development plan section of your business plan or are the steps to start up your business right now. I strongly recommend creating a business plan first to improve your success but, either way, here are the “nuts and bolts” of starting up your business in the United States:

 

1. Set Up a Business Address and Phone

Do not use your home address or personal cell phone number. Instead use your physical office address or, if you are working out of your home, a post office box. Make sure to get your address entered on at least Google to start so it pops up when people search in your local area.

You’ll be spending a lot of time talking on the phone to your clients so you may want to get a separate business cell phone or set up a free Google Voice number that goes to your cell and you always use to call out with, but that’s a bit of a pain. I’m sure that soon some technology will make it easy to have two phone lines run on one cell phone but, until then, you’ll be joining a mass of small business owners who pack around two cell phones. Also, if you have staff, you may want to set up a Google Voice number that rings multiple people. You’ll need to gauge this.

 

2. Get an EIN from the IRS

Apply online at www.irs.gov for your Employer Identification Number. You will need this for just about everything from government correspondence and taxes to setting up your bank accounts, filling out an I-9 to work for other companies, etc.

 

3. Make it Legal

Every state (and country!) is different so do your research to take the appropriate legal steps to make your business legitimate. Usual steps in the U.S. are registering your business entity with the state, registering your business name, and acquiring any local licenses you need in your city or county. You’ll need an operating agreement if you want to be any form of corporation or limited liability company (please seek legal advice, but limiting your liability in this industry is a good thing!). Find a good accountant and lawyer to help you with these items and get any more information you need from the Small Business Administration. Even if you do most of the work yourself to minimize costs, this is a crucial time for a professional to catch anything that might lose you money or more down the road.

I’m not saying you should do this as you need to figure out what is best for you, but my business is an LLC and I cobbled my operating agreement together from a few I found online and then ran it by a lawyer friend who I thanked with bottles of wine. Cheap and professionally reviewed!

 

4. Open a Checking Account in the Business Name

The obvious things to keep in mind are the minimum balance (often different for commercial accounts than personal accounts), any fees, and location of ATMs. I’d also think about how good their online system is as it will help you a great deal if you can download transactions for accounting, easily transfer funds to your own accounts, and possibly even pay your employees electronically with minimal costs.

 

5. Get a Business Credit Card

I recommend getting one with a good rewards program as, if you run your business like I ran mine, I made a lot of rewards points by buying items for my clients (from groceries to computers and furniture) and having them reimburse me (I never up-charged) at the end of the month by check. Whether or not you pay for client purchases for it, use your card for everything related to your business and nothing personal. It will help you build a credit history for your company so stay ahead of the payments. It also will help you greatly in managing your bookkeeping.

 

6. Figure Out Your Methods of Payment and Set It Up

Most of my clients liked paying me by check and I preferred it as I didn’t lose any money in fees to the credit card companies. However, you may find that you need or want to provide the option of paying by credit card. Consider your options: you could just have them pay you via PayPal or you could set up a merchant account. If you use Intuit Quickbooks Online, I believe Quickbooks will manage credit card transactions and manage all the dealings of payroll (sweet!). I personally used Freshbooks to invoice my more tech savvy clients and set up the PayPal credit card option through it.

 

7. Get Insured

Getting insurance for a personal concierge company can take a while as insurance providers have no idea how to insure you. This is where your service list may be tested as certain things like, for example, transporting $50,000 paintings (I had to do that) in your car might drastically alter how much you have to pay. Get a good insurance agent who can quote you insurance options from multiple carriers. Insurance agents of integrity are fantastic because they are totally free to you (they make their money on the backend) and are going to do what they can to find the right coverage and price for your business. This can save or cost you a lot of money so put some time into it.

 

And voila! You are official. Time for fun stuff such as creating marketing materials and a website, networking, and working for clients. Best of luck!

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9 Responses to Start-Up 101

  1. Sally-Anne Doyle-Jones says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas! This has helped me enormously!

  2. Jenna Heath says:

    First of all, I LOVE this entire website! My question for this particular post is: why did you choose FreshBooks instead of Intuit/QuickBooks? Was there something about QB you didn’t care for? It seems like the mobile card swiping they offer could be a great way to collect payments, but perhaps that is more gauche with the clientele we’re working with? Thanks in advance! And congrats on your beautiful baby boy!

    • Cameron says:

      Thanks Jenna! I used Freshbooks because it was much cheaper than online Quickbooks and, at the time, Quickbooks online wasn’t as robust as it has become in the past few years. I liked how slick Freshbooks looked for my clients and how my employees could log into Freshbooks and report their hours and expenses directly. For actual accounting, I used and still use the desktop version of Quickbooks.

  3. Max says:

    Question: For someone just starting out, would it be a problem if I were to use my own personal insurance, and then get the business insurance, like a few months down the road?

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Max. What would your personal insurance cover? What would happen if you broke something valuable or a client sued you for losing some confidential information? It is very difficult to predict and try to prevent the many issues insurance protects you against. Especially if you’re not an LLC. And insurance really doesn’t need to be much, my current coverage is less than $200/yr and covers what I need up to $2million. I’d recommend reading http://personalconciergeinfo.com/insurance-coverage/. One nice part is insurance can apply retroactively so, if something happens during the application process, you’ll still be covered.

  4. Lanette Sullivan says:

    Hi Cameron,
    Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge on this industry I have a specific question regarding contracting concierge services to luxury apartment communities. I have a wonderful opportunity to work with a community but I am just starting out..any advice on how I can make the most out of this lead?

    Thanks!
    Lanette

    • Cameron says:

      That’s quite a broad question Lanette! The number one piece of advice that comes to mind is find competent employees you feel you can trust now and start training them. If you don’t want to invest in employees before the opportunity is a signed deal and are unable to get a two week window prior to the job starting, try to find at least one employee (ideally 2 or more employees!) so you and that one employee can cover all the hours necessary until you can bring in others. The main challenge I’ve found with concierge services in luxury communities is that the best concierge companies have a concierge on site 24/7. That will be extremely tough if you haven’t scaled properly beforehand. I’d also take time to nail down a clear time commitment with the HOA board as you will be taking a lot of risk in building up your overhead and targeting your focus so you won’t want them to be able to drop your business without any warning. I’m not sure what is the norm, but an annual contract after a possible 30 day testing period seems more than appropriate. Past that, have fun! If you can get in with a luxury condo community, you have an awesome opportunity to create what is essentially a passive income stream as you can have your employees fully manage that job while you go pursue other jobs or simply enjoy more free time. Good luck!

  5. Mark Taylor says:

    Hello All,

    I am looking to start a concierge service in Milwaukee, WI. What’s the best market of people to start out with? Also, what is the adverage start-up cost?

    Thank you, Mark

    • Cameron says:

      Hello Mark. These are really questions to work out for yourself as it will depend on the services you plan to offer, the prices you’re comfortable asking, whether you’ll be working for individuals and businesses, and the supply and demand of services in your area. Costs can range from nothing more than a business card, insurance, and government business registration fees to needing a car, computer, cell phone, staff, an office, and much more. It’s a unique industry is that there are so SO many types of personal concierge businesses with completely different offerings and business formats. My site has a lot of helpful information on this, but it’s in many different posts and my kit has much more. Here are some posts that may interest you: http://personalconciergeinfo.com/your-target-market/, http://personalconciergeinfo.com/how-to-find-your-perfect-price/, http://personalconciergeinfo.com/start-up-101/.

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